Obesity and the diseases associated with it cost a staggering percentage of health care dollars. It is estimated that $168 billion is spent each year in the U.S. alone to treat obesity-related diseases. These diseases include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), high cholesterol, gallstones, osteoarthritis and more.
• Type 2 diabetes is a disease most commonly caused by obesity. Though it used to develop primarily in adults, it is now quite common in children as well, with the recent increase in the rate of childhood obesity. Blood sugar levels become elevated due to the insulin resistance caused by obesity and greatly increase the risk of developing diabetes.
• Heart disease can develop as a result of fatty deposits building up in the arteries, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) is 10 times more common among the obese than in the population with normal body weight. Fat tissue also requires blood to survive, so more blood vessels are created, putting greater strain on the circulatory system, increasing blood pressure and making the heart work harder to circulate that extra blood.
• Those who are obese have an increased risk of cancer, especially cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, gallbladder and uterus.
• Obesity adversely affects both the metabolism and endocrine system, often resulting in metabolic syndrome, the fastest-growing obesity-related health problem. This refers to a group of risk factors that increase your risk of more serious diseases, such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Symptoms include excess weight particularly located around the middle of the body, insulin resistance, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol and high triglycerides.
• Women who are obese can suffer from a number of reproductive health problems, including infertility, uterine cancer and PCOS. Because obesity causes disruption in the menstrual cycle and the endocrine system that is responsible for the delicate balance of hormones necessary for successful ovulation, studies have found that even a modest reduction in body fat of between 5 and 10 percent is often enough to restore ovulation and fertility.
• Osteoarthritis has grown increasingly common as the rate of obesity has increased. The excess weight adds to increased wear and tear on the joints, particularly on the knees and hips. Obese women are nine times more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, often leading to the need for a total joint replacement. However, researchers have found that losing as little as 11 pounds can reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis by half.
The increased risks of these six diseases alone are good reasons to lose weight if you are obese. Even losing a little has been shown to have a positive effect on your health, and it can significantly reduce the amount you spend on health care every year.